It was the usual press gallery echo chamber on the weekend. Leading us off was a Paul Kelly furiously ingratiating himself with the coming Labor Government:
This is the week the zeitgeist of the nation turned against an embattled Coalition. The government has lost control of the parliament, cannot maintain discipline on its own side, confronts an increasingly hostile public and is besieged by a series of causes for which it has no answer — a stronger role for women, gay rights and firmer climate change action.
Laura Tingle says the same thing at the AFR:
…the past week really has entrenched the sense of a new low being reached. For people outside of Canberra, it is so often the images that are the powerful things in a week like this: the Prime Minister having a press conference in one part of the building, trying to get the agenda back on track, while one of his backbenchers is a few hundred metres away in the House of Representatives announcing she is going to the crossbench.
Peter Hartcher the same at Domain:
After hearing her public complaints of being bullied and intimidated, Scott Morrison invited the Liberal senator Lucy Gichuhi to his office in Parliament House. The newly installed Prime Minister asked her to recount her story.
“I told him everything,” Gichuhi recalls. “After the leadership spill, I was ready to say everything that had happened. I saw adult women crying, even ministers. It was very, very tense. Scott said, ‘Leave it with me’. They were the last words as I left him.”
That was three months ago. What has she heard back? “Nothing,” she tells me. “I haven’t heard anything back.”
Reactive, gas-lighting, tactical instead of strategic. These are all of the hallmarks not just of the Liberal Party but the press gallery that’s supposed to cover it. After the progressive Malcolm Turnbull ran badly behind in dozens of Newspolls then got the chop for it, the Liberal Party is dying of not being “progressive” enough?
Why? The Victorian election. Nobody stops to wonder if the Victorian election can be extrapolated nationally. Whether the expectations in the polity are the same for a federal government. Nor whether the failure to address social equity is the driver of a community anger that has claimed six prime ministers in seven years, many of whom were progressive!
It is not. And the misdirection of the nation’s capital – pollies and media both – is only going to make it worse because the real underpinning of the anger is economic and woefully unaddressed. While Canberra fiddles with social policy, Australian household’s material living standards are burning:
None of this is to say that progressive policy is not important. Let’s put aside climate change given it is an issue of science and economics pure and simple, neither progressive nor conservative. It’s almost as stupid to have to repeat that women, gay and other rights are central to our liberal democracy. Of course they are, move on.
What they are not is the central concern of any federal government. Not even in today’s horribly fragmented media unreality. The national government’s responsibilities are national living standards, broader economic equity and international relations from peace to defence. The more that these bedrock truths are ignored, the angrier the polity will get.
This is not new. MB has been arguing the same since 2011. We’ve watched PMs come and go and given each the same advice, to be honest about the economic challenges and offer a long term plan to fix them. Every time we have been ignored and, as polls sank, each and every PM defaulted to ideology and culture wars, making the disconnect from the polity worse.
There are three forces preventing federal politics from addressing Australia’s most fundamental political economy challenge:
- pollies are trapped by corrupt advice from Treasury’s and RBA’s extremist support of the mass immigration growth model. It can’t fix the household income recession given it is its primary cause;
- the corporate growth lobby of banks, retail and realty love the model because it inflates their economic rents and they campaign for it at every turn;
- the press refuses to discuss it objectively in part because its own progressives are paralysed by fears of racism and thus act as the useful idiots of the corporate sector, or they just do it because the media is itself now a corporate rent-seeker in the model.
Yet unless and until the discussion shifts away from issues of social superstructure and back towards the forces of production at the base, no matter how progressive we get – enshrining rights for the long oppressed cockroach before long – we can look forward to growing community rage, more rapid fire PMs and endless sinking governments.
Not to mention international humiliation, via the AFR:
[at the] G20 in Argentina over the weekend, it was clear that Australia was struggling to be taken seriously. Donald Trump, not one for diplomatic niceties, asked Morrison directly what had happened to Malcolm Turnbull…Germany’s Angela Merkel, who hosted Turnbull in Berlin in April, was most unsubtle, if not downright rude…Theresa May…quizzed Morrison during their meeting over his controversial plan to move Australia’s Israeli embassy…There was no meeting with China’s Xi Jinping…
In a G20 leaders guide published by the Buenos Aires Times, the volatility of Australia’s political system was compared to that of Italy and South Africa.
Canberra’s ship of fools is now sailing the world’s oceans.